Don’t look Tina Rahimi in the eye.
That’s how she’ll bring you down.
” I enter [the boxing ring] and I feel like a lion,” the Australian featherweight champion (57kg) told ABC Sport.
“I watch [my opponent] deep in their eyes and I try to see how they look at me to see if they are scared.
The 26-year-old from south-west Sydney laughs when she talks about her bullying tactics, but don’t be fooled by appearances. She is the real deal.
From fitness to fight club
Rahimi is currently in Turkey preparing for her first appearance at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.
Five years ago, she was just hitting the pads for fun at her local gym.
She started out in women-only boxing classes, but after seeing a friend fight, her path was set.
“I dedicated myself, I started running more, I started eating healthier. And in February 2018, I had my first fight,” she said.
His nerves nearly derailed that initial fight.
She was overwhelmed, bawling her eyes out minutes before entering the ring, and she started to question everything.
Rahimi felt the pressure to stand out, to be different.
Born in Australia to Iranian parents, the Muslim fighter wears a hijab, long sleeves and tights in the ring.
“I’m not really masculine, so I don’t look like a boxer. So I’m like, ‘everyone is going to look at me, and they’re going to judge me.’
“But once I jumped in there, I felt amazing. I just did my thing and won my first fight.”
Support from a higher power
There have been many more wins since that nervous first introduction.
She won the national featherweight title earlier this year, earning her selection for the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games in July in Birmingham.
Boxers find inspiration in all forms and for Rahimi, it is his faith that ignites him at the moment of the fight.
“I pray, I ask God to make me victorious,” she said.
“I listen to the Quran and like to get really spiritual before I go into it and pray for God to help me and then protect me and my adversary.”
During Ramadan, which ended last week, Rahimi’s commitment was clear.
She fasted during the day, that is to say that she woke up every day around 3 am to go for a run, then, after breaking her fast in the evening, she did another session.
But she doesn’t see it as a sacrifice.
Find Brotherhood at Brotherhood Boxn
Rahimi trains at Brotherhood Boxn Club in Greenacre, South West Sydney.
Its trainer, Muhummad Alyatim, established the gymnasium in 2010 to provide the local community with a safe place to blow off steam, rather than turn to crime and violence.
“We started working mainly on the teenagers, older men who were involved in gangs, to unravel the shootings that were happening in the southwest region,” Alyatim said.
“There’s been great progress. Now there’s a bit more understanding before they start shooting.”
It’s also more than a boxing gym – while the fights take place upstairs, faith is encouraged downstairs in the masjid (place of worship).
“You have people who have problems in their lives, and they can’t go up and take care of them, so we’ll take them down,” Alyatim said.
Although Brotherhood is the name, Rahimi’s presence has been embraced by the community they have created.
She is one of the few women who attends but she commands respect.
“She brought the intensity of wanting to train, which pushes me and other coaches and really sets the standard for young boys,” Alyatim said.
“It was a shock to me at first. But coming from a woman, it’s a great type of character that you can bring into a gym because it makes them feel like there’s equal rights there. .”
Prove the doubters wrong with gold
Rahimi was balancing her boxing career with other priorities, including her job as a makeup artist.
She now focuses on sports full time – training, fighting and training to fuel her desire to be the best.
“I have a lot of support, a lot of people believe in me, but then [there are] also a lot of people who I think still doubt me,” she said.
Not that it bothers her or that her self-confidence is wavering as the World Championships approach.
Rahimi also recognizes the importance of being the first female Muslim boxer to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
“I’m getting all this attention for it and I think it’s great, it inspires other female Muslim boxers to get into the sport and it should really boost their confidence as well.”
His coach doesn’t want the recent interest in his star pupil to distract from the main objective.
“It’s all mind games now, how you can mentally prepare yourself,” Alyatim said.
“How you can obviously control yourself through the media, through the fame that comes with it.
Rahimi is eyeing the big prizes on offer this year, but in the distance, the lure of going pro and a world title is there, waiting, when she’s ready for her next move.